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The Great Reset

In every crisis, there is an opportunity. Image: Unsplash

A Biden victory in the USA may seem like a win for democracy, yet there are grave concerns for us all under his Green New Deal and The Great Reset as the pandemic is conflated with climate catastrophe.

The USA has elected a new President, Joe Biden, who ran for the Democratic Party on the slogan Build back better. Innocuous as the slogan may sound; it is drawn from corporate and bureaucratic elites of the World Economic Forum (WEF) and nation states (which all get together annually in Davos, Switzerland, for mutual preening). UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Canadian PM Justin Trudeau are supporters of the agenda introduced by Prince Charles and driven by Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the WEF. Biden’s control of the White House, Congress and Senate in the US leaves the Democrat Party free to implement the WEF agenda under their multi-trillion dollar Green New Deal. What could there possibly be to worry about?

Take a look at the three main components published by WEF[i] and wonder:

  1. Steer the market toward fairer outcomes by tax, regulatory and fiscal policy (e.g. wealth taxes, withdrawal of fossil-fuel subsidies, new rules governing intellectual property, trade and competition).
  2. Ensure investments advance shared goals, such as equality and sustainability (e.g. building “green” urban infrastructure and creating incentives for industries to improve their track record on environmental, social and governance (ESG) metrics).
  3. Harness innovations of the Fourth Industrial Revolution to support the public good by addressing health and social challenges (e.g. using forces of collaboration to deal with COVID to develop diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines; establishing testing centres, tracing mechanisms for infection and telemedicine).

To achieve a better outcome, says WEF, the world must act jointly and swiftly to revamp all aspects of our societies and economies, from education to social contracts and working conditions. Every country, from the United States to China, must participate, and every industry from oil and gas to tech, must be transformed. In short, we need a “Great Reset” of capitalism.

Futility of outcomes focus

Get the drift? The WEF agenda is focused on achieving common outcomes: i.e. driving the same outcomes for everyone in the world in the most socialist way. Pity these people don’t reflect on the scriptures to learn the lessons of old. I recall a couple of thousand years ago a bloke called Jesus told a parable about giving a few shekels each to a number of people. One buried theirs, another held onto it, another spent it and yet another invested it and made more shekels.

Predictably, then, as now, equality at the beginning ended with different outcomes, largely as a consequence of responsibility and initiative. We have to think seriously whether rewards should be equal at outcome. Should those who choose to do nothing share the rewards of those who have worked hard for theirs?

Joseph Stalin had a noble agenda aimed at outcomes similar to the WEF. We know how that turned out – tens of millions dead from starvation, slavery, brutality and control. Wary of pursuing the same socialist path, in two days 80,000 Canadians protested their PM Justin Trudeau signing up their country to the WEF agenda.

Check out the following to see if you recognise how Stalin’s creeds have already encroached on our society, to be rapidly advanced by adherence to the WEF agenda:

  • “Fascism is the bourgeoisie’s (middle class) fighting organisation that relies on the active support of Social-Democracy. Social-Democracy is objectively the moderate wing of fascism. (Flawed bureaucratic control over our lives has expanded exponentially over COVID and climate change through dictatorial regulations and punitive measures).
  • The proletariat (workers) must rise and launch a determined attack upon the bourgeoisie in order to destroy capitalism to its foundations. (Act of faith for the unions).
  • The press must grow day in and day out; it is our Party’s sharpest and most powerful weapon. (In the US election big tech and mainstream media were effective in suppressing information harmful to the election of Democrats leader Joe Biden and were constantly hostile, misrepresenting anything Trump said and did).

George Orwell, ever prescient, many years ago had observed “little evidence that the USSR was progressing towards anything that one could truly call Socialism. On the contrary, I was struck by clear signs of its transformation into a hierarchical society, in which the rulers have no more reason to give up their power than any other ruling class.”

Schwab and other elites are more likely to give us rules than give up power. A hindsight view of history reveals the propensity for ever tighter bureaucratic controls and policing when dictatorial regulations are enforced, as demonstrated in Victoria and in different levels in other states under the cover of COVID management. Both the Bolsheviks in Russia and the Nazis in Germany very quickly instituted secret police forces to carry out their dictates, in betrayal of the people for whom such major social changes were ostensibly instituted.

All Stalin’s death and destruction in a fruitless search for equality of outcomes should be a reminder to Charles Schwab that the destruction of capitalism, however subtle, will be costly. Even a ‘noble’ agenda for some kind of global collaborative utopia where every country and corporation bends to the resolution of crises conflating pandemic and global warming in a Great Reset is doomed to disruption and failure. People value freedom.

Of course, it will not be Schwab, Prince Charles, global corporate CEOs or Justin Trudeau who will be affected. We are not “all in this together as the COVID mantra falsely echoed. It is the ordinary middle class aspirational families having a crack who have been, and will be, most affected who will bear the pain and the cost. Just as Stalin would wish!

Filling the emptiness

Author, war veteran and war journalist George Orwell’s prescience well describes prevailing social conditions today: Whoever tries to imagine perfection simply reveals his own emptiness.

Many seeking to save the world may be as empty as Stalin: beaten by his parents, a marked face, damaged arm and unimpressive stature, zealously asserted power to compensate.

Driving the religious fears of catastrophe (e.g. climate change, COVID, Great Barrier Reef destruction, etc.) and ‘moral’ social imperatives (e.g. Black Lives Matter, colonialism, gender fluidity, equity, multi-culturalism, open borders) forces compliance, at the same time as restricting freedom of speech, movement, business and the faith of others. Measured against my Maturity Model (outlined in my book Becoming), such unrealistic expectations are unsustainable, leading to personal, social and economic fragmentation.

New religious cults have their inflexible beliefs, mantras, chants, champions and child prophets. They thrive on emotion, especially fear, which can be thrilling. Keeps the blood pumping! Commitment of time and money to the cause fills the interior void vacated by former beliefs. Judgement for denialists is brutal and final, warranting cancelling, de-platforming, violence and loss of employment without access to forgiveness or redress. Nothing less than uniform perfection in beliefs is demanded of all. Few realise how their good intentions are being manipulated by national and international operators. For instance, the BLM movement is driven by Marxists.

An absence of truth and justice colours the new religious creeds, thereby missing the essential element for building a sustainable future. Neither do they appear to have knowledge or appreciation of history that could inform intelligent action. It is as if nothing has been learned from the 100 million brutal deaths of the 20th century resulting from dictators (Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot). Yet global elites like Schwab seek to repeat patterns of control, global control, through the Great Reset. Lofty as WEF ambitions may be, no guarantees are offered that centralised global control of the way we operate will end any differently from previous efforts at world domination.

How will we know?

The pot of socialist change has been warming for some years and we are beginning to feel the heat, recognised in:

  • Decline in free speech, especially in Universities deferring to China, punitive measures on political correctness on race, gender and faith. Remember cartoonist Bill Leake being hauled before the Human Rights Commission for an accurate depiction of serious Aboriginal issues; Israel Folau, Australia’s best rugby player, being sacked for posting articles of faith on his private social media; and Archbishop Porteous having to front court for publishing a letter about Christian marriage to his parishioners.
  • Climate change dogmas, permeating all levels of education, media and government, brooking no alternative point of view, even those based on facts. Our power bills have gone up by a factor of three to fund unreliable, unrecyclable “renewables”; over $3b/year subsidies are paid for renewable investment and $10b tipped into the climate gravy train to encourage new technologies. No new power stations are approved. Fancifully, we are expected to get by with batteries that again require much despised mining to produce inputs.
  • At the same time, alternative opinions are stymied: Prof Bob Carter was bothered to death and Prof Peter Ridd sacked from James Cook University for challenging prevailing beliefs about research claiming damage to the Great Barrier Reef. Australia’s big banks will no longer finance coal mine developments, our major export, and the Queensland government stalls approvals for mines and associated infrastructure on green law fare, leading to loss of industry and jobs.
  • Demands for open borders, immediate settlement and privileges for illegal arrivals, activist judges and administrative boards and access to extensive legal process and health care (increased costs and social disruption).
  • Failure of education when 30% of children are illiterate after years of an education focused on climate change, evils of colonialism, gender fluidity; when children can barely string an intelligent sentence together, our society is being undermined from within, by the bureaucratic and union elites who dominate the education system.
  • Colonisation dogmas also permeate all levels of education, media and government to the exclusion of factual history of Australia and pride in achievements. Victimhood of Indigenous people without responsibility is a tenet of the ideology, parallel with the unmitigated evil of white supremist colonisers. No account is taken of the inevitability of white settlement or the benefits accruing to Indigenous from which many Aboriginals attain prominence, achievement and prospects, especially in sport and the arts. Still, annually debate is raised about whether to celebrate Australia Day, changing the flag and the national anthem. Never mind the dozens of days and weeks each year committed to recognising the first people, acknowledged at every public function and the $35b annually invested in their advancement. Without an end to demands and even a smidgen of gratitude, “sorry” fatigue begins to set in.  
  • Gender diversity is the area where facts elude policy elites. No longer male or female, husband or wife, boy or girl, but some chosen pronoun. Facts of life for the majority are subjugated to the small percentage of LGTQ+ people, who deserve inclusion but not domination of all. Ready offense pressures political correctness.
  • Racial discrimination is spectacularly disproportionate in a country like ours that has become a melting pot of races from all corners of the globe. Everyone is equal before the law. Pride of sensitivity reigns in a dominion of offence.
  • Freedom of religion, especially Christian religions, is under attack from many sectors, especially the media, either ignorant or contemptuous of the contribution of Judeo-Christian traditions to the evolution of our free and just society, however imperfect. Currently we are living off the fat of those traditions without reinvesting. Social decline seems inevitable and it is unlikely Charles Schwab can save us, or even wants to.

The common theme of all these points warming us frogs in the pot is the righteous hatred and destruction exerted towards non-believers to achieve conformity very much in Stalin’s style. Hatred, even in righteous causes, is a multiplier, especially when fanned by social media. At its end may be self-destruction, as described by Jordan Peterson in his book Twelve Rules, reviewing the lifetime pursuit of green ideals by his friend who ended up committing suicide.

Likewise, love is a multiplier that blossoms when showered by freedoms – of speech, movement, learning and faith. Daily we are being challenged to choose a pathway, not just for ourselves, which is important; also for our families, communities and country. Be aware!

If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear. George Orwell.


[i] Now is the time for a ‘great reset’ of capitalism | World Economic Forum (weforum.org)

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The Social Dilemma

School closures due to COVID-19 restrictions highlighted what we already knew:  the addictive nature of online social networks and gaming, as young people without organised school, sport or social contact indulged many hours of the day and night. Screen addiction produces the same chemical response in the brain as cocaine.

What parents know from experience, was confirmed in a study of 5,000 persons reported in The American Journal of Epidemiology, 2017, which found that higher social media use correlated with self-reported declines in mental and physical health and life satisfaction. Not hard to believe when youth emerge from the screen cave, glassy eyed, belligerent, uncooperative and physically and socially diminished.

The title of this blog has been borrowed from a 2020 Netflix investigative and narrative docudrama film, The Social Dilemma, directed by Jeff Orlowski and written by Orlowski, Davis Coombe, and Vickie Curtis. I highly recommend viewing the film, particularly in the company of youth affected. The film explores the rise of social media and the damage it has caused to society, focusing on its exploitation of its users for financial gain through surveillance capitalism and data mining, how its design is meant to nurture an addiction for profit (as was cigarette smoking) and its use in politics.

Just how insidious tracking of internet usage can be was demonstrated to me at a simple level when searching online for supportive slip-on shoes for use after my hip operation. Advertisements for similar shoes began appearing uninvited on Facebook and other searches.

What lies beneath

Hidden machinations behind everyone’s favourite social media and search platforms are unveiled in the docudrama, showing that the technology that connects us also distracts us, monetizes, divides, controls, manipulates and polarises us. The promise of connectivity has given rise to a host of unintended consequences that threaten to overwhelm us unless we can address our broken information ecosystem that plagues humanity.

  • Mental health dilemma: Persuasive design techniques like push notifications and endless scroll of your newsfeed have created a feedback loop that keeps us glued to our devices. Just how people are preyed upon, cleverly and unwittingly is shown in the film.
  • Democracy dilemma: The New York Times reports that the number of countries with political disinformation campaigns doubled in the past two years. Were the personal impact of social media platforms on individuals concerning enough, we are only just becoming aware of the extreme danger that control of these platforms in biased hands has on the exercise of democracy.

Partisan use of social media platforms is known to influence the election process and outcomes. During the 2020 USA election campaign, operators of the various platforms (Google, Twitter, Facebook) worked together to design algorithms that favoured the Democrat non-campaign of Joe Biden from his basement, while disadvantaging the Trump campaign. Messages supporting Trump and Republicans were cancelled and cautioned. A well-known fact is that near 100% of employees of these platforms in the Silicon Valley bubble contribute to the Democrats, implying entrenched political bias. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook contributed $400m to facilitate Democrat vote harvesting.

Social media advertising gives anyone the opportunity to reach huge numbers of people with phenomenal ease, giving bad actors the tools to sow unrest and fuel political divisions.

  • Discrimination dilemma: A 2018 internal Facebook report advises that algorithms can be designed to promote content that sparks outrage, hate and amplifies biases within the data we feed them. Small wonder that 64% of the people who joined extremist groups on Facebook did so because the algorithms steered them there. Just as I discovered when googling for something as simple as slip on shoes.

China malevolently used on Twitter a fabricated image of an Australian soldier threatening to slit the throat of an Afghan child to denigrate Australia’s image. The Australian (5 December 2020) reports Indonesia using a cyber generated ‘bot’ of an Australian journalist in its battle against West Papuan Independence. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s notorious Internet Research Agency’s troll factory in St Petersburg aims to sow doubt and confusion.

Publishing dilemma: Many people now take their news from online sources, including Google and other social media platforms, which draw content from traditional media sources without paying for it. As a result, on line platforms now attract a greater part of the advertising dollar, leaving funds for traditional journalism like newspapers and TV scrambling for survival. Many journalists have lost their jobs, thereby limiting the scope of an inquisitive media to interrogate issues as would normally occur in a thriving democracy.

 Social media oligarchs claim they operate merely as a platform for communication by others, so bear no responsibility for what is published. While claiming they are not a publisher like newspapers, which must have responsibility and oversight for what they publish, social media have shown an amazing capacity to censor and cancel comments and contributors, especially those more conservatively inclined. Whether or not they are publishers, their political bias has become more shameless and actions bolder. Democracy is at stake as we unwittingly submit to rule by the new wealth aristocracy.

What can be done?

What has become evident is that social platforms affect our lives both at a personal, family level, sometimes in a beneficial way, but increasingly in a way that damages individuals and the broader community of interest.

Families need to rein in practices that are too addictive and damaging to developing children, firmly and decisively limiting children’s exposure, and, conversely, by dampening parents’ own addiction.  An understanding of the coordinated manipulation of minds occurring behind these platforms would enable children to see how easy it is to lose control of their lives at the very time when they are being challenged to step up and grow into maturity, physically and mentally. I have witnessed first-hand a young man with an IQ of 152 who became addicted to gaming all night, couldn’t get up before the crack of noon and showed the ravaging evidence of physical under development and mental decline, unable to complete studies or get or hold a job.

The Australian government is introducing legislation deeming the social platforms to be publishers, requiring them to pay a fair price for news they take from various sources.

In the meantime, we the people are voting with our fingers. Many have already abandoned Facebook and Twitter altogether, or opted for platforms like Rumble and Parler which allow freedom of speech and hold greater respect for democracy.

What’s your plan?

READ:

Our Brains Are No Match for Our Technology, Tristan Harris, New York Times

The Dark Psychology of Social NetworksJonathan Haidt, The Atlantic

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Comeback

In many ways sport is a good analogy for life – regular challenges of competition for which fitness is critical parallel crises in real life; many disappointments when performance falls short; and exuberant elation of winning a prized trophy on comeback, as did Queensland in the State of Origin series. Queenslander!!!

Like many comebacks, mine has been a slow and painful one. Surgery became inevitable with slow and painful deterioration of my hip. As many sports people know, rehabilitation has its own challenges and pain, requiring constant effort with the goal of full recovery in mind. Shortcuts do not rate: just diligent, patient application to the task if I want to take to the field again.

Political Comeback

Opposition is really tough for career politicians, many of whom remain committed to serving communities as effectively as possible, regardless of the low esteem in which you may hold them. Achieving this goal is harder from opposition, as the power of incumbency enables government to implement policies promised.

When you’ve been in opposition as long as the LNP in Queensland (25 of the last 30 years) hopes for a comeback in four years, at the earliest, becomes really challenging. Brutal disappointment of a campaign loss after such a committed effort up to the 31 October election, like the Blues after an Origin game, only time can salve LNP political wounds. Surgery has been performed on the Headquarters and leadership to match the surgery voted by the electorate. A brutal diagnosis has to be conducted and fresh leadership needs to gird the loins to generate and communicate policies that will be effective for the people in all areas of the State.

With the right leadership, building a pathway to political comeback should not be hard in a State overloaded with 230,000 public servants, over $100b debt, no budget, even when Labor has changed electoral rules and restricted LNP fund raising.

Mounting a comeback

In an article in the Wall Street Journal, reproduced in The Australian (20 November 2020), campaigner, commentator and author, Karl Rove, outlined a detailed campaign strategy about How Republicans kept Texas red (Republican) that would be useful for an LNPQ comeback.

Despite being outspent by the Democrats $28m to $17m to flip six Texas congressional seats, and being bolstered by former President Obama and a galaxy of outside groups which spent $61m, increased voter turnout did not result in flipping one seat.

Quietly, Republicans had undertaken two big voter-registration drives (voting is not compulsory in the USA), using big data, technology and volunteers from community organisations, encouraged by former GOP chairman. A total of 318,669 additional voters were registered. A total of 35 million voter contacts were made as staff worked with an army of volunteers to canvas 1.3 million doors, complete 3.1 million calls and send 24.1 million text messages, supported by seven million pieces of mail. Micro-targeting identified low-propensity voters with additional encouragement, swing suburban voters and persuadable Hispanics.

Joe Biden won 5.2m votes (more than either Hillary Clinton or President Obama) but in Texas was beaten by Trump, who also increased his votes by 1.2 million to 5.8m. What stood the Republicans in good stead was their record serving the ordinary people, pointing to increased teacher pay and school funding, protections for pre-existing health conditions and an end to surprise billing, property tax reform, mandatory jail for human and sex trafficking, and amendments to ban state income tax. Whereas Democrats left themselves open with their radical agenda of higher taxes, attacks on fracking, oil and gas, federal takeover of health care,  repeal of the state’s right-to-work law, flirtation with socialism and defunding the police. Sound familiar?

Although voting is compulsory in Australia eliminating the need for us to generate voter turn-out, enough parallels exist in campaign strategy to help the LNP in Queensland make a comeback by mounting a ground campaign reaching out to constituents on local issues.

A strong opposition is important for any democracy, as a sound contest of ideas is essential to improving the quality of governance. As demonstrated by the unhealthy state of Queensland’s ballooning debt, public sector and unemployment after almost 30 years barely impeded by challenge. That is why it is incumbent upon each of us to be responsible with where we place our vote. As I said in a previous blog if you don’t value your vote, others will manipulate you for it.

Will Trump come back

At the time of writing, it appears Joe Biden has won the USA presidential election, pending legal challenges from Trump’s team.  Serious concerns of electoral fraud raised as counting continues weeks after the election, will need to be resolved to restore integrity in the electoral system, whether or not the outcome changes.

Like him or hate him, Trump has shown admirable resilience throughout his presidency continuing to deliver for the American people while having to deal with relentless attacks by the Democratic Party and supporters who still not have accepted the result of the 2016 election with rolling Russian hoax and impeachment efforts, even as COVID began to spread.

In the process Trump has built a strong following of 73 million enthusiastic voters who recognised he spoke for them, however roughly. A comeback is highly likely in some form or another. Watch this space.

Our own comeback

Life’s paths are seldom smooth. Just like me with the hip health issue, we can be taken down by some crisis, uninvited or brought upon ourselves. When struggling in the depths, it is hard to see the way clear to a comeback. Despondency can set in. As a good Buddhist would say, hopelessness is not an option. Ideally we could draw upon some Trumpian resilience to work our way out of crisis to meaningful comeback. It takes heart, effort, application and responsibility. Seek support. Call on family and friends. I know you can do it.

I would love to hear your personal stories of struggle and courage making a comeback – whether in relationships, health or business. All the best.

Election

Value Your Vote

A few years ago I took a 20 hour train ride from Penn Station in New York to Jacksonville in Florida. Rather than fly, I chose to take the train so I could see something of what was happening in the countryside and perhaps engage with local people.

By chance, I had a seat next to an African American woman of a similar age to me, who was travelling to Florida to visit her grandchildren. In the course of discussion I asked whether she would be voting in the coming (2016) election. Her reply was emphatic: “Never missed! The right to vote has been too hard won!”

Would that more Australians under compulsory voting took the right, privilege and obligation to vote seriously enough to delve more closely into what they want and get from elected politicians.

Seek facts before voting

Politicians and political parties may share some similarities but they aren’t all the same. Neither are their policies. It is up to us to be responsible to think carefully about what we and the country most need, exploring what is being offered and by whom, always seeking facts. That would be more advantageous for us all.

The media is not always helpful, as certain publications, TV channels, social media and elites project their own biases, dishonesty, misrepresentations, sins of commission and omission to influence opinions and troll for your vote. Even if you don’t value your vote, others do, and are prepared to manipulate you to win it.

Look beyond personal appeal

In particular we are best served when we look beyond our superficial attraction to, or rejection of, a standing candidate, to what they actually do. We are called to consider the impact of policies they propose, not just on us, but on the broader community of interest. No knee jerk reactions! No heated teaching a lesson! Above all, look beyond the comfort of eloquent lies to be prepared to accept blunter truths when making a choice to vote.

For important retrospective lessons on how we served ourselves poorly in recent electoral history, we need look no further than the following:

  • Tony Abbott became leader of the Liberal Party in 2009, taking the party to a near win in 2010 and an absolute win in 2013. Abbott demonstrated all round decency and deep community engagement by decades of active participation in surf lifesaving bush fire brigade, polly pedal raising funds for community organisations and regularly living with aboriginals to inspire advancement. He has been married to the same woman for almost thirty years and they raised three outstanding daughters. Abbott was a Rhodes Scholar, an Oxford Blue, a thoughtful man who outlined his political philosophy in books published.

Yet despite these hard-earned personal attributes and implementing the policies promised (dumping the carbon tax, stopping the boats), Abbott was attacked on superficial issues: for being too conservative, biting an onion, looking at his watch (misogynist), wearing budgie smugglers in a surf proficiency race. Relentlessly he was trolled in the media, all the time being undermined by the silky talking Malcolm Turnbull who had ever craved the Prime Ministership. Turnbull proved to be a green flop in the job and a sad, mean ghost in retirement. All those who piled in on Abbott contributed to Australia’s loss.

  • Campbell Newman had already proven his extraordinary administrative ability during seven years as Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Australia’s largest local government, before becoming Premier of Queensland in 2012. As a former army major and successful management consultant Newman set about implementing a plan for infrastructure development, engaging public/private partnerships to get projects completed on budget and often before time. By appointing former LNP Leader, Laurence Springborg as Health Minister, Newman was able to rein in the bloated, under-performing department, reduce staff and budgets, yet still improving performance, waiting times, staff and patient satisfaction. Despite Queensland’s burgeoning debt, then over $80billion, Newman set about implementing efficiencies throughout the system and reducing the number of public servants and the debt – all to our advantage.

Newman did what he said he would, yet the media and the public orchestrated outrage that he did it too fast, did not consult, and did not bring the public along with him. How willing were we to look at the current and long term benefits of his efforts on our account, rather than take personal offence and seek to “teach him a lesson” by voting him out?

Having won the consequence of our vote, Labor was re-installed under Premier Anastacia Palaszczuk. Now the public service has an additional 35,000 bureaucrats, the State’s debt has ballooned to over $105b, countless projects have been cancelled, stalled or rejected and unemployment is the highest in the country.

Rather than teaching Newman a lesson, we have been compelled to learn one. All the more reason why we should put aside our automatic reaction to the candidate as depicted in the media, to look beyond to the policies and the willingness to implement them in the interests of ourselves and our families, now and in the future.

  • Donald Trump, current President of the United States often evokes an immediate response of hatred, resentment and cringe worthiness, not entirely unwarranted: he is a flawed character as are we all. Trump is invariably portrayed negatively by the media mouthpiece for the Left (they use the same words). His Tweets, regardless how objectionable to many, go direct to his 87 million base, cleverly circumventing the fake news.

‘Deplorables’ elected Trump on his policies to Make America Great Again and to ‘drain the swamp’ of Washington elite who had ignored them for so long. Like the businessman that he is (and like Abbott and Newman), Trump boldly set about simply doing what he said he would, dealing with issues directly as they arose. As a result the economy boomed, wages increased, businesses profited, more blacks, Hispanics and poor found jobs, those on food stamps declined. Trade deals were renegotiated, especially against China’s $500b annual deficit; major organisations like NATO were challenged to lift responsibility for their own defence; the UN and WHO threatened with defunding should they fail to live up to their constitutional obligations. The military has been refreshed, strengthening American (and our own) security. Instead of starting wars, troops are being brought home, peace has been negotiated between Israel and Arab nations Bahrain and United Arab Emirates, between Kosovo and Serbia, and is in progress between the Taliban and government of Afghanistan. Veterans are guaranteed prompt health service, instead of dying waiting.

Under the First Step Program Blacks have benefited exponentially from prison law reform; development of 8,000 Opportunity Zones for black jobs and businesses; School Choice programs for improved education; and ten year funding for black colleges. Rather than being the racist the media portrays him, Bright young black woman Candace Owens, author of the book Blackout, believes Trump frees African Americans from the Democrat plantation.

Media rhetoric criticises Trump’s management of the COVID response, yet he has had to deal with the same issue we have had under Australia’s federalism: recalcitrant state governments which go their own way. It is unarguable that Trump stopped international flights from China and Europe, setting up a pandemic management team under VP Spence, mobilising PPE equipment and ventilator manufacture, marshaling two military hospital ships and fully equipped pop up hospitals.

All this has been accomplished while under rolling threats of a presidential coup orchestrated by the Democrats, initially to distract from Hillary Clinton’s email scandal, then failure to accept the outcome of the 2016 election, even four years later. No wonder Trump might seem a bit erratic at times. Love him or hate him it could be said he is an exemplar of resilience under pressure that few could emulate: how to keep focussed on the job at hand for the American people while subject to relentless lies, false allegations, misrepresentations, by the Democrats, media, Washington insiders, corporate and Hollywood elites.

Voting in coming Elections

Queenslanders have a serious obligation to consider their vote on 31 October – whether to vote for more of the same spiralling downward trajectory, ballooning debt and public sector, unemployment and investment uncertainty, or to try a fresher approach to investment, infrastructure development and employment prospects for themselves and coming generations.

We cannot vote in the USA election on 3 November, which has similar dramatic contrast in impact, not just for Americans, but also for Australia and western civilisation. As the Democratic party leans to the radical socialist left and China threatens, we need an American patriot like Trump to stand up for his country, the American people, the economy, faith, families, the constitution and history.

Votes lodged in the next few weeks will determine the course of history. Be mindful how you cast yours.

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Don’t be afraid

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In a crisis, politicians feel they must be seen to be doing something, so assert extraordinary powers over us that curtail freedoms, life and business. Under the unknown of COVID-19 this has certainly happened. Maintaining the fear is a large part of it, though President Trump has been pilloried for trying publicly to allay panic, while actively pursuing solutions at “warp speed” throughout the country. Bureaucrats, comfortable with their secure jobs, assured salaries, salary increases and bonuses, are given the job of administering the new laws.

In Policy 101, one learns that the hardest part of policy, no matter how well intentioned, is implementation. New regulations are inevitably reinterpreted at the coal face. And over this COVID crisis haven’t we seen some doozy interpretation of the dictatorial constraints on freedom of movement, speech and borders.

Authoritarian over reach

To a person we’ve been appalled by Victorian police breaking down the door and handcuffing a young pregnant woman in her pyjamas for daring to post on Facebook an invitation to attend a peaceful, safe protest in a park in the Victorian country town of Ballarat. No cases of the virus were present there, although lockdown still pertained. Zoe Buhler now faces half a dozen charges and enormous legal expenses.

The same Victorian police were nowhere to be found when gangs of Sudanese youth ran riot through suburban streets, terrorising residents and destroying property. Go figure.

Then there are the ridiculous constraints on the Canberra resident wanting to visit her dying father and attend his funeral. Why would it take 20 days to respond to an application, when there are so many public servants (the Premier has added an extra 35,000 of them in Queensland, now over 230,000) who must have a bit of slack time between them to be able to turn around an application within 24 hours, in keeping with good business practice. The woman’s father died before she was able to cross the border. The grand concession from Queensland bureaucracy was to allow her an hour with her father’s body after the funeral. Shameful!

Just when you think it couldn’t get any worse, comes a story of a farmer’s indomitable good humoured spirit. The bloke farms sheep or cattle 25 miles the other side of the border and needed to feed them. When he dutifully approached bureaucrats for permission as an essential industry to cart 25 tons of feed hay to the farm to feed his animals, it was suggested he drive the hay to Sydney and fly it to Melbourne then drive it to the farm. He was shaking his head in disbelief. Imagine the cost and stupidity of undertaking such an exercise. Animals and the farmer can go heave!

There’s no question that extraordinary authority invested in the immature brings out the dictator. Even while waiting patiently in the queue for service at the Newsagent, I was chastised for being too close to the person behind me. Whatever!

In an ever increasing crescendo, the escalation of fear has brought with it an escalation of rules, which further increases fear, bringing out the dictator within. Yet were we to look to the facts, common sense would allay our fears. This advice follows recommendations for the Maturity Model in my book Becoming – to seek truth on which to make decisions to remain confident, rather than fearful.

Managing COVID Fear

Earlier in 2020 when we were just beginning to understand the threat of the China virus, a high level of concern was raised due to a lack of understanding of the nature of virus, how contagious the spread and who was most affected. Frantic footage of ICU in hospitals in Italy being overrun and the lonely deaths and funerals stirred everyone’s emotions, imagination and fear of the unknown.

We now know that COVID-19 spreads by contact, leading to the rules we know by heart: safe coughing, wearing a mask, hand santisation, keeping 1.5m distance and isolation for 14 days if in contact with a person infected or returning from an infected area.

Despite further knowledge that the majority of those severely affected by the virus are people older than 70 with co-morbidities, orchestration of anxiety has continued by governments and the media, with a focus on new cases and deaths, rather than numbers who have recovered. Deaths from COVID have been exaggerated by counting those who died with, rather than from the virus.

Businesses and schools have been closed or employees and students required to work from home. Borders have been closed and ever more rigid rules have been put in place with ever greater threats of penalties that would do the STASI proud, despite knowledge that very few will die from the virus.

Whereas the federal government has come to the aid with JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments to keep workers engaged with businesses and families with income supports, State governments have taken to heart the power to control people with threats and penalties. Original intention to “flatten the curve” to prevent ICU units being overrun morphed into “suppression” then “elimination”, without revisiting information about the virus, reworking the computer modelling and inputs (rubbish in = rubbish out), or going back to the people for consent. The virus has become political.

The facts are:

  • The number of people who died from the virus is fewer than those who would have died from the flu
  • The effect on most people younger than 70 without co-morbidities is mild
  • Children seem to have high immunity, seemingly due to their high level of T-cells
  • Treatment with existing remedies has proven effective in curing the disease and saving lives. Rejecting this because Trump suggested is not a good enough excuse to continue killing people.
  • Vaccines are being developed rapidly around the world.

No need to lock everybody up at great expense and social disruption. Most oldies are grateful for the length of life they have enjoyed and may already have restricted social contact.

Fully realising the facts, we should be able to get back to life as usual, having captured fear rather than being ruled by it. All that will be left is to pay for the disruption. Now that’s scary!

Managing Climate Fear

Though the immediate health crisis has captured our attention, the end of the world from climate catastrophe promised in 10, 20, 30 or 100 years by the various pundits has not entirely faded into the background. Occasionally little gems arise that give us hope over climate terror that has school children weeping in the streets.

Australia has been bullied by domestic and international conservation agencies about our alleged poor management of the Great Barrier Reef, causing $millions to be spent of research to prove just how bad. As a result research funding has skewed research findings. Those who challenge the veracity of outcomes have been severely castigated for daring to disrupt the populist political story that feeds the research gravy train. Professors Bob Carter and Peter Ridd suffered greatly: Carter died and Ridd was sacked by James Cook University.

Recently Professor Peter Ridd highlighted a study that showed a mere 3% of the Great Barrier Reef was affected by agricultural runoff, and that was only on shore side of the reef. Findings like this are heartening to the farmers who have bent over backwards to employ best environmental practice while being severely pilloried by the Greens, Labor, conservationists and international experts hoping to run them out of business and us out of food.

Destruction of the GBR was another reason for trying to stop development of the ADANI coal mine and half a dozen other mines mooted for the huge coal reserves in the Galilee and Carmichael basins.

Fear of destruction of the GBR demonising the two activities that keep this country prosperous (farming and mining) has been turned around on facts that have not changed, but have selectively been ignored – facts based on distance and geography.

The facts are:

  • GBR is 50-100km from the coastline, hence the limited effect of agricultural runoff
  • GBR is not one, but a series of reefs often kilometres wide.
  • GBR is 2,400km in longitude, crossing a wide range of temperature zones
  • ADANI and other coal mines from the basins are a further 400-500km inland

As with COVID, destruction of the reef has been politicised to engender fear and guilt, to attract attention and money and to destroy coal mining.

We need to seek out the facts to stay in charge of our lives, livelihoods and our money. Don’t be afraid.

Franklin D Roosevelt’s memorable message during the Great Depression, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”, is well remembered and applies today. His message ended with the reassurance – “nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyses needs efforts to convert retreat into advance”. Let’s go forward boldly.

Communication

Games People Play

Despite being given a bad rap these days when every child wins a prize and any tall poppy can be cut down to size, competition remains a valid and valuable developmental tool for human endeavour and personal maturity. Games and organised sport have proven important personal and community pursuits.

Occasional disputes over the rules or who has won do not invalidate the value of playing the game. In a civil society, issues at dispute can be debated and changes negotiated without resorting to violence and destruction, whether social or physical. Life can move on, improved. Respect and acceptance of the outcome will see us through if we all understand common parameters of the game and share common values.

It’s hard to be sure today, when cancel culture dominating the air waves has overturned much of what is known and understood from centuries of evolution of western civilization. Until recently in this country, it was given that all people were equal before the law and we enjoyed freedom of speech and choice, based on enlightened Judeo-Christian traditions.

Other gods

Decline in practice of religion has led to two outcomes – decline of common values and the need to fill the faith vacuum with new beliefs of other gods, perhaps even becoming a god oneself – the very thing scriptures warn against. As ever, power, money and moral superiority are the incentives. Judge not lest you too be judged we were advised.

Values have certainly become more diverse in this era of disruption and there has been a significant decline in respect for alternative perspectives. While we might try to learn from the prevailing message, it is hard to get involved when the message constantly changes, as does the game.

Take for instance the issue of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. A lot of protest, anger, hatred and destruction directed against innocent parties, even black people and businesses, often by whites claiming virtue and purpose. The game changes when underlying truths are exposed and a black person pronounces that “all lives matter”. Trolls pile in to destroy the character and standing of the “traitor” to the black cause. Rules of the game’s code are no longer understood as in the original handbook of the bible or the footy, but become fascist interpretations of whoever chooses to take offence first and fastest. Truth, history and respect have no part in the game.

Intersectional games

These days as we are divided into in identity groups (skin colour, gender, gender preference, climate change, religion) the zeitgeist can approve of our particular victim hood with empathy and feel good about it. Problems and opprobrium arise when sections are crossed.

JK Rowling of Harry Potter fame and a strong supporter of feminism found out just how badly when running afoul of the transphobic Twitterati defining woman by their gender identity and capability to menstruate. The ensuing pile-on sought to discredit Rowling and everything else she had achieved for this grievous misdemeanour according to the transgender bible of the day. Rowling’s approval for gender preference lost out on her definition of women in the intersectional game.

We have certainly come a long way in the acceptance of LGBQTI identification and gay marriage, but when innocent words, deliberately misinterpreted, can cause such a global wave of hostility in cancel culture, it makes one long for the old days when understanding of the rules of the game were simple and well understood. Unconscious bias and preferred pronouns seem so remote from those of us battling along in a COVID era, too busy to take offence.

You would think that Jacinta Price, an outspoken, articulate aboriginal woman with particular leadership qualities would attract support on gender and colour identities. Jacinta’s failing, according to the moral gods of now, is that she is honest about aboriginal on aboriginal violence and community dysfunction, challenging aborigines to greater responsibility. At the same time Jacinta acknowledges the countless, costly ways that indigenous Australians receive special support from the broader community. Because her pragmatic approach aimed at truly advancing aborigines does not comply with the accepted narratives of institutional racism, colonial exploitation and white supremacy, Jacinta suffers relentless abuse from moral arbiters.

Personal games

Yet even in our simple day to day lives we can be affected by the games people play. Take the marriage where the wife demands that unless the husband (or vice versa) improves his performance she will leave. So he gets professional advice and makes a valiant attempt to shore up the relationship by complying with her wishes. To no avail. The game changes and there are new demands to be met. She leaves anyway. He can’t win.

Or take the young mother who judged the children’s grandmother to be ‘unworthy’ because the birthday greetings and gifts were inadequate. Even the grandmother’s concerted effort to upgrade presents on a limited budget made no impact on the referee. The rules changed and the grandchildren were denied the gifts. The grandmother had no chance of scoring; ultimately refusing to participate in a “game” without respect or fairness that she could not win, even if it meant no access to grandchildren by the almighty judge.

Similar unreasonable demands can be made in a workplace, or between a contractor and consultant. Unrealistic time frames and under-resourcing put pressure on the worker who must deliver the output. The person paying holds the power of referee in the game. Where respect and fairness prevail, both parties may be satisfied. Yet it is not unknown for limitations of the “referee” being projected onto the person expected to deliver to judge the work unsatisfactory and refuse to pay, or even worse, expect payment for the inconvenience of being unreasonable. Situations like this can occur even when the parameters are spelled out clearly at the beginning of the work.

Conversely, when people understand the rules of the “game” and comply willingly, everyone can advance happily. Having moved house recently I’ve been fortunate enough to encounter fair play and experience the good cheer that accompanied it.

When movers arrived at the house, they went through what I had ordered and what was expected of them. Costs were clarified and methods of payment. Then cheerily they went about their business, two strong young blokes working in seamless tandem. On arrival at the new abode the same attitude prevailed, though they had to manage to move via a lift. Each was respectful and careful of the furniture and equipment, clarifying position and arrangement. Costs were confirmed and payment made. The difficult task of moving house was made more bearable by everyone playing the game to the rules.

I’m a bit past assembling flat pack furniture, so engaged the services of a bloke who does it well and likes doing it. His quote for assembly was confirmed or adjusted once he sighted the items before he went about his business, chatting cheerfully. When he was finished, satisfied with his work as was I, payment was gladly made and we parted ways, both enriched, until next time. We have both understood the rules and played the game.

How to play the game in future

The year 2020 has been a particularly disruptive one, not only because of constrictions brought about by COVID-19, but also because of the shake-up in understanding and values as we are challenged to grapple with a new order at so many levels. Even the footy is struggling to gain momentum after being shut down like everyone else.

Don’t be like the Palestinians who never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. We can take time during disruption to reset the parameters of the way we play our “games”. Sticking to what is tried and true, respecting history and people and playing fair will ensure peace on our patch as, like the movers, we cheerily do our bit.

Child and family

Gratitude

Free to be

Every now and then something surprising pops up from an unexpected source, colouring a vision for the future. Gratitude can do that for us.

In this case the surprise came from a black African former refugee who had been granted Australian residency.  While his name escapes me at the moment, as does the television show on which he appeared, I am sure we will hear more from him.

Having spent years in a refugee camp, eventually making it to Australia, he had secured a job, accommodation and a new life. His main message to all his fellow travellers and to us was that he was no longer a refugee but a resident contributor to Australia, ever grateful for the chance of a new life this country had bestowed.

The fellow was concerned with questionable claims of racism and victimhood projected in the media by ethnic youth gangs raging across cities and suburbs. With support from his work colleagues and community he was reaching out to those of ethnicity feeling disenfranchised to undertake a similar psychological transformation – from refugee/victim to becoming free and grateful contributors.

The message that they are free – free to take charge of their lives and make of life what they choose – is being voiced by more considered media as we are being besieged by Marxist leaders and ‘useful idiots’ of the Black Lives Matter movement in the US and around the world.

Western civilization is under threat from within and without. Yet even in its imperfection, democracy continues to evolve and people can have a say, unlike in Marxist/socialist cultures BLM seeks to advance. Little do they understand the irony that once achieved, the protests and riots they espouse would not be allowed. Revolutionaries tend to consume their own, as the death of 100 million over the last century attests. Perhaps knowledge of history or a visit to Marxist countries or corrupt African dictatorships would clarify whether gratitude rather than contempt should be afforded Australia and the USA for democratic, capitalist advances on the countries of origin (e.g. Africa) or ambition (communist China, Venezuela). An entirely new vision could be formed. We could be spared the wanton destruction.

Personal gratitude

The personal becomes the political, ultimately influencing a community of interest, so it is wise to reflect on how grateful we are no matter how poor or wealthy our circumstances. Alternatively we can slide into bitterness, victimhood, helplessness or greed, when, with a slight change in attitude to gratitude, like our former refugee, we could become a grateful contributor.

Saying grace before a meal may have become passé as the practice of religion has declined and family meals around a table have been replaced by a bucket of KFC or pizza in front of the TV. Yet a family I know asks all present at a meal to nominate three things for which they are grateful that day. Gratitudes mentioned may be for food, providers of the meal, minor successes, the companionship and consideration of others. Tenor of conversation changes family dynamics for the better.

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough. This message is true whether one is poor on benefits, or well off, ever grasping for better home, car, assets, status and money.

Victimhood is not a healthy position for someone receiving the largesse of public housing, free healthcare and services, as well as discounts and other benefits. Gratitude to the taxpayers who fund the benefits would more likely mean the funds would be well spent.

Similarly, a healthier appreciation of the present and vision for the future could be formed with more modest aspirations flowing from a spirit of gratitude for what fills our present, than the relentless pursuit of more to advance assets and status to dull the hollowness within.

The Gift Box

In the dynamics of generosity, awareness of the gift and benefits bestowed is a prerequisite to the ability to express gratitude.

Australia’s provision of generous welfare benefits, though never enough (the poor will be with you always), can tend towards entitlement, diminishing awareness.

As mentioned in my book Becoming, when explaining the dynamics of giving under the heading of The Gift Box (p40),

Moral imperatives imposed only on the “need to give” cause imbalance when there is no concomitant expectation of appropriate response from those who “receive”, in whatever form.

The pool of productive “givers” may shrink in a selfish self-absorbed world should there be little to no evidence of the worth of giving.

Explanation of the 3rd and 4th quadrants of The Gift Box diagram cite the lack of awareness of the value of what has been received and even hostility towards the givers, whether taxpayers or “the rich”. Productive change is impeded all round.  Gratitude, the quality of being thankful, the readiness to show appreciation and to return kindness is the missing element.

Measured against my Maturity Model, continuous giving without change, in these circumstances, leads to loss of wholeness and maturity of both parties. The “rights” of the audience to wallow in dysfunction may be respected, along with their “rights” to wear the consequences. The generous can also choose to take their gifts elsewhere to more productive pastures.

That is why it is so refreshing and inspiring to hear the story of the African refugee who has become a grateful contributor to Australia. Our gift of residency to him has been transformed into a spirit of generativity, reaching out to influence others from the refugee community. At the same time, his gratitude has proven a dynamic gift multiplier, as his workmates and the community around him have rallied to his cause. Therein lays disparity between ingratitude and gratitude.

Let us be grateful for what we have today, the blessing of being enough.

Uncategorized

Skin in the Game

The title for this blog has been borrowed from a book of the same name by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, who poses values similar to those espoused in my own book Becoming: accepting one’s own risks and responsibilities.

Having skin in the game, claims Taleb, works better than thousands of laws and regulations to even out the risk/responsibility profile in community, business and government. It is a simple rule that’s necessary for fairness and justice, and the ultimate BS-buster.

Insights offered by Taleb are pertinent to our current COVID situation, when decisions made by “expert” elites are controlling so much of our freedom of movement and operation. At the same time businesses under pressure of failing, with no choice in whether the borders are opened or operations can restart, are expected to fund decision-makers who still have their jobs and income.

Taleb offers pertinent insights such as:

  • Minorities, not majorities, run the world. The world is not run by consensus but by stubborn minorities imposing their tastes and ethics on others.
  • You can be an intellectual yet still be an idiot. “Educated philistines” have been wrong on everything from Stalinism to Iraq to low-carb diets. (We could add COVID-19, Global Warming modelling and University of Queensland’s faceless judiciary committee for its treatment of student activist Drew Pavlou).
  • Beware of complicated solutions (that someone was paid to find). A simple barbell can build muscle better than expensive new machines.
  • True religion is commitment, not just faith. How much you believe in something is manifested only by what you’re willing to risk for it. (Think Climate Change, where costs are borne by taxpayers and the poor rather than decision-makers who often benefit financially)

That Premier Anastacia Palaszczuk has no skin in the game is evident as she keeps Queensland borders closed despite the very low number of people who have the virus in this state and the trend towards suppression in other states.

Palaszczuk has lived all her life on the public teat: her father was a politician; she has worked for the Labor Party; and now heads the Queensland Labor government. The Premier has no experience in business, like Pauline Hanson in a fish and chip shop, risking all financially starting a business and employing staff. She has never had to put her hand in her own pocket to pay a worker. As Premier, Palaszczuk has found it all too easy to add another 30,000 public servants to the payroll, racking up more government debt.

 It is clear that the Premier doesn’t understand the desperation resulting from quarantine measures and border closure, especially for tourism businesses which will miss out on 40% of their usual earnings when southerners are prevented from travelling north for the winter sun and grey nomads are unable to move to warmer climes. No skin in the game! And contemptuous of those who have risked all to create business to provide goods and services, employ staff, make profits and pay tax to keep the Premier in the style to which she has become accustomed. Constitutional challenges may be necessary to change the Premier’s mind.

Strategic decision models

Strategic decision making models that respect all parties are available to the Premier and her elite advisers should they be open to other than political or ideological positions:

  • Maturity Model: Those familiar with my writing would recognise the Maturity Model which can be applied to all situations, policies and circumstances across life. Context is an important basis on which choice, responsibility and expectation are balanced. By increasing expectation and loading responsibility, as the Premier is doing by keeping the border closed, unreasonable expectation and responsibility are loaded onto people and businesses who have no choice. Financial and social fragmentation will inevitably result.
  • Cynefin Framework: (Snowden DJ and Boone ME, Harvard Business Review, November 2007) is a multi-context model that recognises approach to issues differs and different management responses are required depending on whether the situation (context) is simple, complicated, complex or chaotic. Authoritative management is necessary when a situation is chaotic, as with the onset of the pandemic. However the authors recognise the risk in authoritarian management continuing when the crisis (pandemic) is past, leading to greater problems.
  • Multiple Objective Decision Support Systems (MODSS): Values and weighs up various objectives (e.g. health, economy, health system capacity, reliability of supplies, population tolerance of restriction on freedom) to reach decision compromise that will not satisfy every criterion while allowing sensible advancement.

Any or all of the models could inform leadership decision making to achieve far better outcomes than we have received from the daily “expert” briefings.

Inners and Outers

Nowhere are Taleb’s “educated philistines” better expressed than by Matthew Lesh (Democracy in a Divided Australia), whose new elite “Inners” of the technical managerial class dominate public policy decision making in the Left, Right,  academia, bureaucracy and business. Decisions made without input from the practical “Outers” who will be most affected so often fail, yet rarely does anyone accept responsibility, even when it is their job. COVID-19 has brought focus to the disparity.

  • Pandemic modelling which began from an uncertain base predicted worst case scenario to be managed. Generally people complied with sanitation, isolation constraints and closures to enable hospital supplies to be secured. However, as the situation changed and fewer than predicted cases emerged, there’s been a distinct reluctance to revisit the ‘expert’ modelling. Scope creep meant that expert ‘Inner’ authoritarian decisions made by people in secure jobs remained, while ‘outer’ people’s jobs and businesses went to the wall.
  • Ruby Princess debacle is a classic case of having no skin in the game. Allowing 2700 passengers disembark from the cruise liner in the early hours of the morning without abiding by proper health protocols, merely shifted responsibility to the hundreds of people, their families and health workers that had to pick up the pieces in illness, death, care and cost for those who became infected by the virus. No one lost their job. A few tears from a low level operative taking the hit for NSW Health at the enquiry hardly compensates.
  • Closing the borders may have had merit for a short time. Driving local tourist businesses to the wall by extending the closure beyond necessary, while seriously inconveniencing the movement of locals demonstrates a lack of skin in the game. Shutting down normal congress is easy. Doing something constructive is more challenging.

With the intensity of recent bushfires we had already experienced how badly damaging flawed bureaucratic decisions can be when local and state governments failed to undertake recommended clearing of undergrowth causing loss of property, livelihoods, people and biodiversity running to $billions. No responsibility! No skin in the game!

Similarly with the elite policy decision to trade water in the Murray Darling Basin has meant that flows are not available to productive farmers, having already been traded to international interests who do not own land. Again $billions in actual and opportunity cost.

I am sure you all know of instances where the public have been failed by people paid to secure their safety and interest. Tell me some.

Skin in the Game

Estonia recovered from the global financial crisis by every politician and public servant taking a 10% pay cut. Front line health care responders aside, Australia’s recovery from recent crises would be helped if public servants in secure jobs could take a similar cut, to show they have some skin in the game while so many in private enterprises have lost their jobs and businesses. It would more truly show “we are all in this together”. Instead, we have a pay increase of 10% over four years for the 228,000 Queensland public servants in well-paid, secure positions, merely deferred until later in the year – closer to the October election.

While the COVID crisis presents opportunities to reset many parts of the economy, as PM Scott Morrison is attempting, let’s hope that due attention is paid to redress the “koala” protected species status of public sector employees at every level of government. Reduce the numbers, improve the efficiency and effectiveness and expect them to show initiative and responsibility as if they had some skin in the game.

Child and family

Mothers’ Day

Vibrancy of my mother Nelly Dean, super athlete, shines through in this picture.
Nelly Dean, athletic star

On Mothers’ Day, many like me find themselves reflecting on the lives of their own mother and the impact she had on our lives over and above giving us life.

My own mother, born Nelly Dean, was one of a kind who thought outside the box, was smart, vibrant, athletic, witty and capable of clear insight into people and situations. She passed on behavioural as well as biological genes.

It took discernment and effort before I could separate the accuracy of her perceptions from her volatility that left so many diminished and me embarrassed.

Over years I worked out how to express a different perspective with respect. My philosophy developed as a result, to ‘make enquiry before accusation’, invariably leads to a richer understanding of context, better information and often self-disclosure by the people in question. All parties are able to mature through the process.

Marriage and motherhood

My father, Allan Petersen and his brothers were swimming and lifesaving legends of Maroochydore Surf Lifesaving Club, the brothers often comprising the majority of members of their champion R&R team. My parents may have met at a State Surfing championship when Allan won the surf race and Nelly the beach sprint.

It was hardly a marriage made in heaven, when Allan took his city savvy bride to live on a farm in the bush. In a short space of time this athletic couple produced one son and eight daughters, as people did in those days. Black humour prevailed: we joke we were all the result of arguments, of which there were plenty, born of mum’s frustration. My mother was no farmer’s wife to be limited by petty, small town politics. Her entrepreneurial spirit tried starting a shop, marketing baby clothes and applying her sports administration expertise to involvement in the local school.

Producing children so often distracted from raising them. We children lived a free-range life roaming local water holes to swim, picnicking in the bush, boiling the billy and helping ourselves to wild fruit – mangoes, guavas, raspberries and gooseberries – all while maintaining high academic achievement. In an era of short-back-and-sides authoritarianism post WWII, our mother was an outlier. Only when our parents parted and we returned to the city did Nelly become revitalized.

Learning and applying

While some family members defaulted to learned behaviours, I knew that if another generation of brains was not to be limited, things needed to change.

In addition to learning how to manage conflictual situations more graciously, if imperfectly, I learned that raising children free range certainly produced resilience and initiative in children, though not the discipline and direction necessary to capitalise on inherent talents to become their best selves.

Conversely, authoritarianism had value in maintaining discipline and conformity, though hampered creativity and initiative essential to becoming a whole productive, contributing person capable of being responsible for one’s own life direction.

Both realisations influenced my own parenting efforts, which focused on developing autonomy: sufficient discipline to maintain reasonable order, yet scope to gain competence in making decisions to equip them for life. Furthermore, providing experiences and support for academic achievement, culture and sport broadened their outlook and expanded networks that enabled them to be comfortable in the company of people at any strata of society. To their credit, each child has picked up and run with the opportunities provided.

Those who have read my book Becoming will recognise the philosophy encapsulated in Chapter 4 Making Straight the Way and in my Maturity Model for decision making.

The Next Generation

Nelly’s spirit shines through in my five children, each of whom is bold enough to step up and ‘have a crack’ at innovation and enterprise , taking it further to convert insight into action, to plan, strive and finish – all attractive attributes in business, work and society. Thank you, Mum. And thank you family.

On Mother’s Day I also claim some credit as a mother for having enabled my offspring to advance to a higher level of performance that had not been possible for me under the stress of poverty, ill-discipline and the need to get out to work early to earn money that coloured my own youth. In comparison they have been privileged. In many ways, on countless occasions, they have shown their gratitude – treasures remembered and savoured.

Extended education and social understandings improved through post-war stability tends to encourage criticism of those who came before. Today, rapid changes in communications technology and decades of uninterrupted economic advancement have altered our understanding and appreciation of elders and their values of respect and good manners. What we have gained in wealth and technology we seem to have lost in respect, resilience and good grace.

Chronological snobbery (condescension towards earlier generations) has emerged strongly in the era of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Communications are mostly horizontal – across a peer group, leading to pooled ignorance – rather than longitudinally, across generations to glean wisdom. Misunderstandings result. Elders’ relative ineptitude with technology can often see them dismissed as not very smart, though an older person’s life experience and wisdom could add value to many family situations – if welcomed and if precious off-screen time allowed.

Diminishing the value of elders should lead today’s busy mothers (and fathers) to consider how their children may ultimately treat them.

Ties that bind

To parents and grandparents, a new baby is a source of precious wonder, joy and delight. Merely by coming into being the new baby evokes love and hope for the life to be fulfilled that helps to overcome difficulties of adjustment that must be managed on the way to a new state of family.

For mothers, love continues throughout the child’s life. Regardless of the number of children, the ups and downs of family relationships and rivalries, mothers never cease loving and wondering about the wellbeing of their offspring wherever they are in the world, as they stand willing to assist where ever they can. Hurts can be mended, reparation made and peace restored.

Celebrating Mother’s Day with a phone call, a visit or a bunch of flowers in this COVID world marks a measure of respect and gratitude for the love, loyalty and leaven that a mother has invested in family.

That is true of my mother Nelly. It is true of me. And the same love and loyalty repeats in the next generation.

May all mothers be blessed with kindness this Mothers’ Day and beyond.

Uncategorized

Learning from opportunities lost

This blog is not about broccoli but about how we develop and benefit from innovation. By reading on to find its relevance to the story, perhaps you will look at broccoli and innovation differently.

Mandelbrot[1]

Benoit Mandelbrot had an exceptional scientific record across continents, especially for creating the first-ever “theory of roughness”. He saw “roughness” in the shapes of mountains, coastlines and river basins; the structures of plants, blood vessels and lungs; the clustering of galaxies. His personal quest was to create some mathematical formula to measure the overall “roughness” of such objects in nature. Were he alive today, he may have produced a mathematical formula for COVID-19.

Fractals were seen by Mandelbrot as a form of geometric repetition, in which smaller and smaller copies of a pattern are successively nested inside each other, so that the same intricate shapes appear no matter how much you zoom in to the whole. Fern leaves and broccoli are examples to which we can relate.

What was pertinent to my discussion with Barry Jones (former Science Minister in the Hawke Labor government) was that Jones had met with Mandelbrot (possibly while Mandelbrot was researching at IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, New York, where he worked for 35 years to 1987). Jones recalls asking what he was working on and was advised that “they did not know”. Upon returning five years later Jones found that 40 products had been produced from Mandelbrot’s research to that point. His work, developed entirely outside mainstream research, led to modern information theory.

Which leads me to what geniuses do we have in our midst, outside mainstream research, with the capability to add value to our store of solutions were they provided the financial freedom to explore where innovation takes them. And do we have the commercial sophistication to advance their genius without impatience, greed and exploitation?

Steiner

For over 20 years I was an associate of one such genius: Dr John Steiner, an Austrian born Australian, who completed his PhD in Physical Chemistry and Instrumentation at the University of Queensland.

Much of his work involved management of gases and odour – across medical, sewerage, agriculture and energy sectors. Ever, like Mandelbrot, Steiner operated outside mainstream research. He offered simple solutions, sophisticated in execution. There are many:

  • 4DS technology for the treatment of airborne contaminants , most pertinent to COVID-19 conditions. 4DS technology could Deodorise, Disinfect, Detoxify, Decontaminate and Sterilise airborne contaminants by releasing specially designed vapour from a molecular vapour generator. At a molecular level, rather than particulate (as from a common spray can) the molecules are able to penetrate and destroy the contaminant. Steiner said he had also had success at an atomic level – i.e. atoms are smaller than molecules. 4DS technology was developed following the SARS outbreak.
  • Applications of 4DS to enclosed spaces include: hospitals, hotels, airports, high rise rubbish wells and water sanitation systems. His simple solution to dealing with dangerous hydrogen sulphide in sewerage channels was to prevent hydrogen sulphide from bonding, rather than try to manage the outcome with expensive chemical treatments.

We can see how valuable those innovations would be today.

Without a wealthy patron (like IBM for Mandelbrot), the inexorable compulsion of the innovator in John Steiner carried on under financial pressure, when he had already persevered through so much.

Early Steiner innovations

My first contact with John Steiner was at a post-graduate function looking at the commercialisation of technology, my area of interest. At that time he was involved in odour control of feedlots and off-grid septic and toilet systems.

Previously he had developed virtually instantaneous, long lasting odour control of ostomy bags. Interest was expressed from the four global producers of ostomy bags who wanted the technology but were reluctant to pay a fair price. The ostomy bag technology could have readily been converted to face masks and body bags had there been a patient financier/manufacturer willing to back John Steiner.

Since then there have been countless times, like today during COVID-19, when contaminant and odour repellent face masks and body bags could be used, as well as his 4DS technology for the decontamination of shared space.

Ever innovative, in response to demands in the 1990s, John Steiner turned his genius towards cleaner energy from coal fired power stations. Emissions, he believed, were a function of inefficient combustion. His simple solution, sophisticated in execution, was to improve the efficiency of combustion by harvesting and adding gases at high temperature and high speed during the combustion process. A further innovation was the rapid heating of fuel (coal) entering the retort, which again presented operational and environmental savings.

Timing is critical to commercial success. Changes in research funding from Energy R&D to the Australian Greenhouse Office meant research funding, though granted, became unavailable for John’s project. At the same time, corporatisation of the power stations meant that industry partners, from which government had harvested profits, had nothing left to invest in innovation.

Over the years, approaches to various energy producers, governments and financiers suffered similar fates: technical excitement at lower levels of operation and outright deprecation of the scientist by those in government and management decision-making roles. Mere minnows of scientific endeavour were ever anxious to maintain their superiority in negotiations rather than seek solutions for the good of the business, or the country. They won the day and lost the future.

All that genius came to a tragic end when Dr John Steiner was swept overboard, hit by the boom of a yacht sailing in Moreton Bay 20 December 2010. He was never seen again.

What can we learn, if we are willing

 To become a more resilient nation, it is imperative we capitalise on local enterprise. More than twenty years working in the commercialisation field has taught me a number of things. Firstly, we need more intelligent, sophisticated investors from private enterprise and government if we are to attain successful outcomes. Financiers and marketers need to be as smart in their field as the scientist, not smart-arsed as so many proved to be.

Secondly, investors need to be patient with chemical, biological or technical processes which take time to prove, if one is looking for certainty. Steiner suffered great cost and aggravation of legal wrangling from a highly influential businessman who wanted confirmation of process before it was scientifically verifiable.

Thirdly, greed is an innovation killer. A common psychological phenomenon of commercialisation of clever innovation is that a greedy investor wants to capture everything right away and eliminate the innovator. They may end up with one product/project, yet miss spin-off options that emerge from the developer’s inner compulsion to create, like Mandelbrot. Perhaps investors believe they can do it all themselves, but they do not carry the spirit of creativity that will flourish a business by staying in contact with the source and subsequent innovation.

Visiting the Walt Disney museum in San Francisco I found the same thing had happened to Walt Disney. Having developed the first ever three animated cartoons, Walt found his partner cutting him out of the business. A partner less greedy and more honourable could have benefited from the global enterprise that later emerged from Disney’s compulsive creativity that now entertains millions around the globe and employs thousands of people. The enduring message is that with patience there will be plenty for everyone.

Had John Steiner been blessed with better fortune, his innovations could be servicing us now in our hour of need, just as he intended.

Finally, scientists, engineers and innovators need to be savvy about who and how to deal with investors. John Steiner was a courteous, slow speaking person prone to engaging into technicalities. He was a poor match for the slick, fast talking, condescending investor decision-making elites, so it was hard to traverse the boundaries to reap benefits.

Today we are the worse off because of the failure of those with the largesse to pick up the opportunities to make this world a better, safer, more sustainable place. Let’s learn from missed opportunities, so all can benefit and prosper in the future.


v[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benoit_Mandelbrot